AP English Literature Test Taking Strategies

POE (process of elimination)
For answers that aren’t obvious, don’t look for the right answers, look for the wrong answers and eliminate them.

Quickly scan all the passages in the MC section, and pick the toughest one to do last
This would allow one to have a good amount of time to do the easier passages and gives good leeway if one runs out of time.

About 12 minutes per passage if there are 5 passages.
Half wrong = ALL WRONG

POE tip: When looking for answers to eliminate, find one inconsistency among the answer. (Ex: If the answer choice says “a sympathetic potrayal of an effete snob”…)
The character wasn’t really portrayed sympathetically, although he is a snob. So eliminate the answer choice (Half wrong= All wrong)

POE tip: Go to each answer choice and ask “why is this wrong”
Look for the tiniest incorrect detail about each answer choice

The Art of the 7 minute Passage: When running out of time, do NOT read the passage, just go to the questions that require little reading.
Answer questions that require little understanding of the passage and mostly require outside knowledge of literary terms . Like ones that ask what a certain phrase from the passage is an example of. (Ex: Cold Fire, in line 12, is an example of what? An OXYMORON!)

The Art of the 7 Minute Passage: Use when the time is almost up and you have like 1 more passage. (See a description on the other side)
Answer the questions in the last passage that require little reading. This are reference questions, that say “The phrase cold fire is an example of…” or the phrase “wang-a-dong-doddle (line 123) most probably means….

Concentrate! Do not just skim the passages; take time to actually understand what you are reading.
Most students, while reading difficult text, will get to a sentence they do not understand. At that point, most students go blank and just read the rest of the passage w/o absorbing a word of what they read.

Do not blank out
Most students blank out while reading something boring or when tired. Then, they don’t really absorb or understand the reading.

Take your time. You can skip an entire passage and still get at least a 4.
It is better to take one’s time and only get through 4 out of 5 passages than it is to rush through all 5 passages and get most questions wrong.

The best way to use POE is to look closely at the wording of each answer choice for
what is wrong and eliminate it

For prose passages, get the main idea. Read the first few sentences of the paragraphs and quickly skim through the rest.
While still absorbing the reading. (pg 29)

For poetry, read it twice before answering questions: Read quickly the first time just to get all the words in your head, especially if it’s a short poem
2nd time, focus on getting a general idea or understanding. Do not focus on analyzing the poem or trying to find deeper meanings, the questions will lead you on that.

If you still do not understand the poem, do not panic. And do not waste time trying to understand it or analyze it, if you do not understand it. Just go to the questions.
When reading poetry, try to ignore the rhyme scheme and line breaks. Read it as a sentence.

Sam threw the orange to Irene
Subject: Sam, Direct Object (what does Sam throw?): The orange, Indirect Object: Irene

Verb: Action word. Adjective: Modifies a noun/pronoun. Adverb: Modifies a ver
Gerund: Serves 2 functions as a noun and verb`. (Swimming across the lake is fun. Swimming is both a noun AND a verb)

Skip the main idea questions in the MC portion of the test (*especially for the poetry sections*)
Answer all other questions to help get a general idea of the passage, unless the main idea is super obvious

When writing the essays, make sure the writing is CLEAR and well-organized.
Use interesting and non-boring words. Liven up the sentences, but don’t over-do it.

Write an excellent 1st paragraph to make a good first impression. ANSWER THE QUESTION.
Neatness counts.

Show off your literary and rhetorical vocabulary
Do the essay you like best first to get the juices flowing.


One tone questions, always use POE
Use POE on almost all questions, in fact.

most answer choices have something right about it, but only the CORRECT answer has nothing wrrong with it

Whenever a question ask for what a word refers to or modifies or it’s antecedent, always ask
What is “inaccesible” or what is whatever the reference word is.

EX: The word inaccesible modifies which of the following words: Lakes, caves, springs, poison or avarice?
Ask “what is inaccesible?” The Caves!